Guest Blog Post: Roux the Day Blog by Linda Wiken, Dinner Club Mystery Author




9780425278222Roux the day! Especially if that day ends in murder. It happens!

Those of us who love reading cozy mysteries know that so well. As does J.J. Tanner, my protagonist in the Dinner Club Mysteries. Roux the Day is her second outing, along with the members of the Culinary Capers Dinner Club. And this time, she’s pulled into investigating a murder that took place at a fundraising Casino Night on a harbour cruise; one that she’d organized in her event planner capacity.  When her friend, Connor Mac, goes missing and then hits the top of the suspect list, with J.J. in number two spot, she and the other foodies start their own investigation.

I’ve found that writing culinary mysteries is double the fun. Not only do I get to plan murders and the numerous villains, ah, suspects but I also do a lot of food research. Which of course involves sampling. I also have a passion for cookbooks, mainly because of the visuals. How can you not be seduced by those wonderful photos of food! Oddly enough, that’s something J.J. and I share. She is trying to up her game though, and ventures into cooking dishes that are fairly complex, for her. I find myself trying the same thing these days.

Part of the reason for my increased cooking skills comes from being on the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen blog which requires a recipe, with photos, twice a month. If you’re into culinary mysteries, you’ll want to visit the site at Some of your favorite cozy authors blog there regularly. And the recipes are to die for. Oops, maybe not such a good choice of terms.

In Roux the Day, the members of the Culinary Capers Dinner Club choose a real cookbook, and each make a recipe out of it for their monthly dinner club gathering. This time around, I’m trying something different. I’ve asked the foodies to use the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, and thus I had to scramble to get the appropriate permission from authors (Sara Paretsky, Lisa King, and Cathy Pickens) to reprint the ones you’ll find at the back of Roux the Day.

It turned out to be a lot of fun, mainly because everyone thinks it’s such an unusual idea.

I hope you’ll join J.J. and friends as they strategize, investigate and, of course, dine.  And P.I. Ty Devine has her back, but his intentions may be more personal than professional. At least, they’re picking up from when they first met in Toasting Up Trouble, the first book in the Dinner Club Mysteries,

What’s a gal to do? Solve the crime, of course.


Linda Wiken is the author of the national bestselling Ashton Corners mysteries under the pseudonym Erika Chase and is the former owner of a mystery bookstore.

Guest Blog Post: Putting the Squeeze on My Best Laid Plot: How Unexpected Realities Impact A Cozy Mystery Storyline


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By Kelly Lane

Like most freshman mystery writers, when I sold my three-book OLIVE GROVE MYSTERY series to Berkley Prime Crime I was thrilled and full of hope that my cozies would continue well beyond the first trio of books in the series.

Optimistic of my enduring success as a cozy mystery author, with starry-eyed dreams of a “never-ending” series, I peppered my first book, ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE, with all sorts of threads and storyline starters. I put a gazillion elements in place—characters, businesses, settings, backstories … hints of what might come later—so I could build and draw upon these elements over the life of the series.

The biggest ongoing thread in the series is the romantic storyline involving my amateur sleuth protagonist—chronic insomniac, runaway bride, PR gal, Eva Knox. Thirtysomething Eva has scurried back home to her family’s olive plantation in small-town Georgia after her life blew apart following her most recent wedding-day fiasco in New England. When she returns home after 18 years living up North, despite declaring a “man moratorium” for herself, quickly Eva is torn between the series’ two hunky leading men: Eva’s former fiancé and local sheriff, Buck Tanner; and Eva’s moneyed neighbor, mysterious Scotsman, Ian Collier.

Initially, I’d intended to stretch out Eva’s romantic dilemma from one mystery story to another—playing the two sexy suitors off one another—for many, many books to come. However, reality reared it’s sometimes-ugly head and I soon realized that continuing the series beyond three books was going to be a slipperier proposition than I’d initially presumed!

It’s the Pits for a First-time Cozy Author

ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE was in production during some of the publishing industry’s most tumultuous times, ever. Ramifications of new industry models—including Amazon, e-books, and self-publishing, to name a few—were unknowns. Traditional publishing houses merged, downsized, and cut back. Penguin Group, Berkley Prime Crime’s parent company, merged with Random House resulting in significant and numerous staff changes.

Closer to home, I faced one dreadful family crisis after another. I dealt with unexpected health issues. My website designers and I were at odds. My writing was on again, off again. And I wasn’t able to support the release of my new series on social media in the way I’d planned.

Then, there were reports that Penguin Random House announced they’d taken on way too many cozy mystery authors. They’d soon be cutting loose a bunch of cozy authors.

In other words, it was the pits for a first-time cozy author without much of a following. Prospects for my new, “never-ending” mystery series were dribbling away …

Tying Up Threads

So when I began writing book two, COLD PRESSED MURDER, I decided that instead of drawing out all the many complicated threads that I’d planted in book one, it was only fair to readers if I worked to resolve what I’d started; all open threads would be tied-up by the end of book three. Among other things, that meant resolving the love triangle, of sorts, between Eva and her two dashing men. Who would become Eva’s ultimate squeeze? Buck or Ian?

I needed to choose.

Already, well into book two, one of my leading men was quickly fading from the limelight. That is, until I went to lunch.

Camp Buck vs. Camp Ian

Back to reality, joining six women at a luncheon one afternoon, I was surprised and delighted to learn that each woman had read ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE. Moreover, not only were they enthusiastic about the series, they were equally and keenly divided between two distinct camps: Camp Buck and Camp Ian.

The women who adore Buck said Eva’s former bad-boy fiancé turned Sheriff, with his big brawny frame, warm chocolaty eyes, and teasing, smart-ass Southern humor is the perfect match for Eva. No one understands her better. And where’s he been all those years when he was out of town after Eva left him at the altar? What could he possibly see in his current squeeze, Eva’s nemesis, Debi Dicer?

The luncheon ladies are eager to see Eva take nasty Debi down.

By contrast, the women smitten with older, green-eyed, tall and wickedly handsome Scotsman, Ian, want to know more about this wealthy, intensely private, often broody man of mystery. He always seems to pop up when Eva needs him most.  Of course, he always disappears before Eva gets a chance to pin him down about anything! The luncheon ladies suspect that part of Ian’s mystery is most likely a woman in his past. Hmmm … could be.

The Women expect Eva to draw him out.

Readers Help Define Plot My Choices

Needless to say, I was astonished to realize how devoted these women are to my characters. Of course, that was my intent. After all, I created two men, each with whom I could easily fall in love myself! However, I was still caught off guard at how strongly vested each woman was in her man-of-choice.

And after lunch that day, I realized that killing off Buck or Ian from the series—figuratively, not literally, of course— would be a crushing disappointment to readers, regardless whether my professional reality dictates the series ends up being three books or thirty books long.  And, I admit, I’d hate to see either man go myself!

So, contrary to my initial reaction, even after realizing my somewhat grim publishing reality, thanks to the real-life luncheon ladies, Buck and Ian will both remain key players in the OLIVE GROVE MYSTERY series—right up until the final squeeze!

Guest Blog Post – My Top Tips on Writing A Novel By Jane Corry



Find an idea that excites you. Or sit tight and let that idea find you. Don’t think you have to find a subject matter that’s popular at the moment. Agents and publishers are always looking for something new – or a familiar subject with a different twist.

Experiment with different genres. You might think you want to write romantic fiction but try out something new as well. Write a chapter of a suspense novel. Or an historical. Or a sci-fi. You might be surprised at what comes out of your head – even if you didn’t know it was there.

Play around with viewpoint. Write one chapter from one character’s point of view in the third person. Here  is an example of some opening lines:

9780735220959‘ As soon as she walked into the town and spotted the man sitting on a wall, Alma knew she needed to go home. Quickly.

Now see what happens if you write it from the man’s point of view,

He knew that woman, thought John. He just couldn’t place her name.

 Now write each one in the first person.

As soon as I walked into the town and saw the man sitting on the wall, I knew I had to go home. Quickly.

 I know that woman. I just can’t place her name.

Which one do you prefer? There is no right or wrong answer. It’s a matter of finding the one that you feel comfortable with. You can also mix and match. In MY HUSBAND’S WIFE I have two viewpoints. Alison tells her story in the first person and Carla tells hers, in alternate chapters in the third person. It moves the plot along and helps distinguish between the two women.

Give each one of your characters a problem to solve. If there is no problem, there is no story. Once the problem is overcome, you can lull the reader into a sense of security and then give the character another mountain to climb! It’s called ‘upping the anti’  and will keep the suspense going.

Don’t confuse your reader with too many characters. Ideally they need to like at least one of them and hope that person will come right in the end and be happy.

To help visualise your characters in your head, cut out pictures from magazines and newspapers. Stick them on a noticeboard and have it near you as you write. It can also give you ideas. Why is that man’s hair flopping over his right eye? Is it hiding a scar? How did he get that?

Limit your chapters to a readable length which allows the reader to get into the story, but also gives them a break. I aim for between 2,000 to 3,000 words. Short chapters can be very effective every now and then to make a point and signify a big change in the plot.

Use dialogue to push the plot along and reveal character traits. Here is an example.

Hi, ‘ said John looking down from the wall.  ‘Haven’t I seen you before? Wait a minute. It’s coming to me. High school. 1982. Alma, isn’t it?

Now add an extra word to give a better picture of John.

 ‘Hi,’ said John smoothly.

Immediately we see a confident suave man, whom I don’t trust. Even though I’m not sure why yet!

Use magazine pictures and postcards to help you visualise the setting. I’ve currently got a big noticeboard next to me with pictures of the sea. Part of my next book is going to be set on the coast. Always include the senses: colours, smells, noises, texture and so on.

Write something every day. I know this isn’t easy. But it’s essential to keep the flow going. Make time by giving up something else. Even half an hour will add up as the months go by.

Increase your chances of getting published by networking with others. Join Twitter. Set up a Facebook page. Attend literary festivals where you can talk to agents and publishers face-to-face. Have an ‘elevator pitch’ ready to give them. This is a short resume of your plot that you can give someone if you’re standing next to them in an elevator. Here’s mine.

‘MY HUSBAND’S WIFE is about love, marriage,  murder and prison.’

I also have another line. ‘An eye for any eye. A wife for a wife.’

Be careful who you show your novel to. Friends and family can either be too keen to please or too critical. Find someone you trust. Or didn’t tell anyone and send it straight to an agent.

Enter writing competitions. Don’t expect to win, but use it as an exercise to write to length. If you do win, it’s a bonus which you can then refer to in your cover letter to an agent.

Don’t be disheartened if you get a rejection. There are lots of bestselling authors who were turned down several times for acceptance. Re-read your work and see if you can improve it. Then send it off again.

Consider a writing course but make sure you choose a tutor who is published in the kind of subject/genre that you are interested in.

Finally, believe in yourself. Many authors find themselves to be ‘overnight’ successes after years of hard work.

Enjoy writing. There’s nothing like it!

Follow me on Twitter @janecorryauthor




Book Reviews and what I’m Reading!


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Gone Without A Trace

By Mary Torjussen


April 2017

Cover Art by TK

In Mary Torjussen’s thriller “Gone Without A Trace,” Hannah feels confident that her training course in Oxford will lead to a promotion. She’s currently a senior manager for a sizable accounting firm. While it may be too early to celebrate, she can’t wait to tell her boyfriend Matt the news.

After a 200-mile drive back to her home in northwest England, she is stunned to find not a single possession of his in the home they shared. There is no “I’m leaving you” note. There was no phone call detailing the reasons why he wanted to leave her. Nothing. The only thing she can do is find him. Find out if he had another life elsewhere. This is where her obsession evolves. She becomes hyperaware of every little clue and they are barely visible that even the reader begins to search the rooms with her. She knows a person can not simply disappear. Her obsession begins to alter her appearance, her ability to focus at work, take care of her home, and her health.

There are only a few people she dares tell what she’s experiencing: her co-worker, Sam, her friend Katie and former lover, James, who is Katie’s boyfriend. Their texts and phone calls make her feel like she’s going crazy. That she should simply accept what happened and move on with her life. But she can’t and everything she learns merely pushes her closer and closer to the edge.

GONE WITHOUT A TRACE is a psychological thriller that flows so well from chapter to chapter that you are compelled to read more. I found that you are trapped by Hannah’s obsession. It drags you so completely into her POV.  When things begin to take an intentional path. You begin to wonder who is after her and why. I was caught off guard by the “who” and shook my head at the end. Don’t people learn their lesson? At the heart of it, that’s the part that scares you.

five post-it notes out of five

Denise Fleischer

February 25, 2017


9780425266700Crepe Factor

A Scrapbooking Mystery

By Laura Childs with Terrie Farley Moran

Berkley Prime Crime

Hardcover, $26.00, 310 pages

published: Nov. 2016

set in New Orleans

While checking out the naughty goods at the bondage booth at the Winter Market, Carmella Bertrand’s friend, Ava, changes into some form fitting merchandise. To Carmella’s surprise, Ava wasn’t trying to squeeze into the tight leather outfit, there was another type of struggle occurring that was causing the merchant’s tent to eventually collapse and the x-rated items aren’t the only thing that tumbled. “Glutton for Punishment” food critic, Martin Lash, is done stirring up bad business reviews. The proof is his body on the ground right next to them.

High on the suspect list is Chef Quigg Brevard, one of several local chefs to get a bad review from Lash. Soon Gabby, who works for Carmella, learns that Lash also was the executive director of a small non-profit group called “The Environmental Justice League.” Its passionate about preserving Louisiana’s swamps and bayous. The league doesn’t stand down when it comes to telling businesses they can’t continue doing what they’re doing.

Brevard knows that without Carmella’s intuitive amateur sleuthing, he’s going to prison. Doesn’t matter that he didn’t kill Lash, the police won’t believe him. He desperately needs her help. She’s fully aware that her boyfriend, Detective Edgar Babcock, doesn’t want her involved in an unofficial investigation. At the same time, she doesn’t want Brevard guilty for a crime he didn’t commit. So the investigation is on. It’s going to take a lot of digging and danger to get a snapshot worthy of real evidence, but if anyone can do it, it’s Carmella.

Probably one of the first books I reach for in my TBR pile are those written by Laura Childs. Each book is entertaining and loaded with character personality. She hasn’t failed to deliver a mystery that will transport me to another town where someone hopes to get away with a crime, but doesn’t. Glad to see a book that focuses on environmental issues. Loved the twist in the plot. Makes you think that if its possible, will someone attempt it. Both Carmella and her friend, Ava, took a lot of chances here. Amazing they made it out alive.

Four expensive appetizers out of five

Denise Fleischer

February 26, 2017


Saddle Up For Murder

By Leigh Hearon

A Carson Stables Mystery


November 2016


paperback, 315 pages

Leigh Hearon’s “Saddle Up For Murder” begins with the death of a senior in her bed. Few would question that as a suspicious death. Days later, Annie Carson, owner of Carson Stables in Olympic Peninsula County hears her young student scream during a riding lesson. Hannah informs Annie that she saw a man in the woods with a gun. They also notice a fawn separated from its mother. Riding lesson over, they return to Annie’s training facility. Concerned about the safety of her students and her flock, Annie personally investigates to see if a hunter is on her land. What she finds is a campsite and a toy lamb. That alone would logically signal the presence of a child. Though, there wasn’t any sign of a child’s sleeping bag. Annie knows it isn’t unusual to find signs of the homeless in wooded areas, but she doesn’t file this one away as simply a mystery.

Soon after, she’s contacted by Marcus, who was a suspect in his late wife’s murder until the authorities learned he was innocent and abducted by his wife’s killer.  Wounded, he ended up at Olympic National Forest and struggled to get help. Annie apparently solved the case, with Sheriff Dan Stetson playing a minor role.

Marcus calls Annie and tells her that he’s flying home as soon as possible. So there’s hope that there might be a relationship down the line. After helping the sheriff  with  an animal rescue, Annie is confronted by a young woman named Ashley who would like to work at her stables. Annie doesn’t feel she needs an assistant, so she doesn’t hire her.

Sadly, the next day she finds Ashley dead in her barn. She has no idea why it happened on her property and it didn’t appear to be suicide. Guilt sets in for having not hired her. Could she have saved her life? Annie attends Ashley’s Memorial to pay her respects. The authorities, in the meantime, believe that her boyfriend, who is far from an angel, is somehow responsible for her death. So now there’s two deaths, the old woman who died in her bed and a young woman who died in Annie’s barn. Question is, are they related? Why is someone on Annie’s land? What is killing animals?

SADDLE UP FOR MURDER deals with some really heavy issues which reveal themselves one layer at a time like most mysteries. What makes this one different is that it ties them together into a deadly little package. I would have liked to have known more about Ashley’s life, rather than be introduced to her quickly in the first scene and when she confronts Annie. I also don’t think it was safe for Annie’s student to take riding lessons when she wasn’t sure who was sleeping on her property and if they had weapons.

What I enjoyed was the opportunity to read a book where horses and caring for them is at the heart of the storyline. I liked Annie’s courage and her determination to see through to the resolution of a bad situation. I’m hoping that her relationship with her half sister can grow. I also liked that from the previous murder of Marcus’ wife comes a positive transition and future for disadvantaged children.

four saddles out of five

Denise Fleischer

March 1, 2017

What I’m currently reading or will read soon. The following books have been sent to me. This is only a few of them. 






You Mean You Don’t Live There? A guest post by Laura Childs, New York Times bestselling author of Pekoe Most Poison




When I’m strolling Riverwalk in New Orleans, with thick fog rolling in and the mournful toot of a tugboat off in the distance, I have every confidence that I can convincingly capture this ethereal moody image on paper – even though I don’t actually live there.

I’m one of those authors who buzz in and out of cities to snatch a quick whiff of atmosphere and head-spinning locale. And I really love it that way. Because when I visit New Orleans, I’m dashing around that grand old city at breakneck speed, tasting oysters, downing an Ibita Beer while listening to zydeco music, sneaking into above-ground cemeteries, and buying potions and spells at French Quarter voodoo shops. These are all fabulous elements that come together and form a kind of author’s gumbo that I can sprinkle like zesty herbs throughout my Scrapbook Mysteries.

The same goes for Charleston, South Carolina, the setting for my Tea Shop Mysteries. Charleston is another old-world city that’s filled with history and mystery. They’ve got narrow alleys where duels were fought, Revolutionary War-era graveyards, spooky old plantations, the pounding surf of the Atlantic, and historic grande dame homes along with old Huguenot families with plenty of skeletons in the attic.

Gerry Schmitt, who writes under the pen name Laura Childs is now adding two more series that are harder-edged Wednesday February 26, 2014 in Plymouth. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

Gerry Schmitt, who writes under the pen name Laura Childs is now adding two more series that are harder-edged Wednesday February 26, 2014 in Plymouth. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

As much as I’d love to live in Charleston – though I can’t afford the home prices – I think I enjoy visiting just as much. Because with each and every visit I’m able to breathe in a huge amount of atmosphere that adds to the rich settings in my books.

Settings, as you probably know, are one of the elements that add texture and character to a book. Settings also tell you a lot about a character without having to go into a long description of that character. A character’s mood, outlook, and actions are just naturally flavored by the setting in which they live.

Settings can also serve as a kind of character. In my Scrapbook Mysteries, New Orleans is often portrayed as a dark, brooding place where merriment can break out at any moment. This is a city where Mardi Gras is practically a religion and your family pedigree is scrutinized as if you were competing at Westminster.

In my Tea Shop Mysteries, Charleston is often portrayed as genteel, old world, and upper crust. And I particularly enjoy creating a sense of place. I try to let my readers smell the crepe myrtle, feel the industrial strength humidity, taste the French cooking, and experience the resonance of Charleston’s history.

So, no, I don’t live in Charleston or New Orleans or any of the places I describe in my novels. But all my characters have settled in quite nicely, thank you. Which means my characters, settings, and stories will hopefully reside in reader’s hearts as well.

All my very best,

Laura Childs

Laura Childs is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Pekoe Most Poison is her just-released Tea Shop Mystery. In Laura’s previous life she was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Find out more at



New Title: World Chase Me Down by Andrew Hilleman



 True Grit meets Catch Me If You Can in this electrifying debut novel whose “themes are as contemporary as breaking news” (Michael Punke, author of The Revenant).




A Novel

By Andrew Hilleman

A Penguin Original / January 24, 2017

ISBN: 9780143111474 / Price: $16.00


“This one’s a winner. . . . Crowe’s remembrances of his five wild years on the run are especially fun. . . . The attention to historical detail is illuminating throughout. . . . The supporting cast is pleasingly despicable. . . . [An] action-packed debut.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Lively . . . A raucous example of narrative invention. Pat makes for an enthusiastic narrator, and he ends his story on a surprising note that affirms man’s infinite capacity for resilience in the face of life’s harsh vicissitudes.” —Publishers Weekly

 “A rollicking great read that careens between funny and poignant, intimate and epic, action-packed and romantic. And like the best historical fiction, its themes are as contemporary as breaking news.” —Michael Punke, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Revenant

“I envy you, reader, because you’re in for at least two treats. First, WORLD, CHASE ME DOWN is a rollicking, elegiac page-turner that depicts a time and place I’ve not seen before in fiction and that stars a one-of-a-kind antihero you’ll keep thinking about days and weeks later. Second, you get to be among the first to experience the debut of a great new talent in Andrew Hilleman. So: Buy and enjoy this novel right now.” —Kurt Andersen, New York Times bestselling author of Turn of the Century and Heyday

WORLD, CHASE ME DOWN brings a patch of history forward, depicting a wide range of humans living and laughing, making mistakes and trying to do right—or sort of right. The vigor of the writing puts the story on the page with memorable bursts of power and subversive wit.” —Daniel Woodrell, New York Times bestselling author of Winter’s Bone

From The Revenant author Michael Punke to Winter’s Bone author Daniel Woodrell to Turn of the Century author Kurt Andersen, thirteen highly acclaimed novelists have praised Andrew Hilleman’s galloping, hard-nosed debut novel, WORLD, CHASE ME DOWN (A Penguin Original; January 24, 2017; ISBN: 9780143111474; $16.00). This historical Western resurrects the legend of an outlaw for economic justice who was once the most wanted man in America: Pat Crowe, a forgotten, real-life Robin Hood who committed the first great crime of the 20th century: the revenge kidnapping of the son of an Omaha meatpacking tycoon. In prose as visceral and gritty as the American frontier, Hilleman pens an unforgettable saga the likes of which are resurgent in the entertainment world—think The Magnificent Seven, The Hateful Eight, Deadwood, True Grit, and Westworld­—and that calls to mind some of our best novelists, like Allan Gurganus and Patrick DeWitt.  

More than 100 years have gone by since the fevered cross-country manhunt for Pat Crowe was dubbed “the thrill of the nation.” After five years on the run, Crowe returned to Omaha in police custody and was greeted by more people upon his arrival than President Theodore Roosevelt was greeted by when he made a campaign stop in Omaha during his reelection bid. But the novel’s author, a third-generation Omahan, had never heard of Crowe before stumbling on his story while researching another novel, nor had his grandparents. “The more I learned about Pat Crowe,” Hilleman admits, “the more I changed as a writer…. I couldn’t get his tale out of my head. It felt like that was the direction I really wanted to go to tell an Omaha story, and so this novel rose from the ashes of my previous effort.”

Hilleman wound up telling much more than an Omaha story: In charting Pat Crowe’s time as a fugitive, WORLD, CHASE ME DOWN takes the reader to Butte, Montana; Columbia, Missouri; Nogales, Arizona; New York City; Philadelphia; and Chicago, along the way taking the pulse of a forgotten American folk hero.

Thanks to Hilleman’s ebullient voice, grizzled prose, and cinematic vision, a footnote in American history has come brilliantly alive. WORLD, CHASE ME DOWN is a revelatory feat of imagination that marks the debut of an exciting new voice in contemporary American fiction, and that affords a fresh look, from the distance of over a century, at the class divides that are at the heart of our national conversation.


Andrew Hilleman was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1982. He earned his B.A. and M.A. in English at Creighton University, in Omaha, and his M.F.A. in fiction from Northern Michigan University. He has been published by The Fiddlehead and was a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award. He lives in Omaha with his wife and their daughter.


Author Fern Schumer Chapman Introduces Students To Her Mother, Who Is A Holocaust Survivor From Germany


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Fern Schumer Chapman, right, and her mother, Edith, signing  Fern’s books which were purchased by the students.


Eighth graders at Algonquin Middle School in Des Plaines, IL, quietly filled the LMC on Feb. 10. They were aware that the author would speak about a 12-year-old girl from Germany’s life when the Nazis were in power. Fern Schumer Chapman, who wrote four books about her mother’s Holocaust refugee experiences and her mother, Edith, were guest speakers.


Fern’s books focus on the Holocaust so that students will learn the truth about the past.

The students heard about bullying of the highest degree: racial discrimination leading to death in concentration camps. They learned that Edith Westerfeld’s father was a businessman. Since 1721, generations of his family had lived in the same home in Stoclstadt, a town in Rhine River Valley.  Being the only Jewish family, they were subjected to the German government’s legalizing discrimination against Jews. Adolf Hitler’s Nazi policy of anti-Semitism was supported through posters, marches, and national radio broadcasts. Life became difficult when the rights of Jews were eliminated. As the Nazi organization came into full power, the Jewish families realized that if they remained in Germany they would not survive. Fearing the growing reality, arrangements were made to seek a sanctuary for their children away from the Nazi regime. The One Thousand Children Project meant shipping their children half a world away without communication, to live with their families or with a foster family in America.

“My mother was too young to understand the program that brought her here in March of 1938,” said Chapman, who was a journalist for Chicago and national based publications. “Children were mailed across the ocean. The Hebrew Immigration Aid Society sponsored my mother coming to the country. There were also Lutheran and Quaker groups that offered their support to the project. The British saved 10,000 more through their program.”

Through the rocky, cold passage, the young shipmates traveled to New York. During the voyage, Westerfeld befriended Gerda Katz. Katz’s journey would take her to Seattle and Westerfeld to Chicago. After a 15 ½ hour train ride, Westerfeld arrived in Chicago and the home of her Uncle Jack and Aunt Mildred. Because she was unable to speak English, she was placed in O’Keefe Elementary School’s first grade class. By 14, the American government identified her as an enemy alien. Through Movietone news she saw how the Jewish businesses were destroyed in Germany and from a friend’s letter, that her parents were killed in a concentration camp. Still, she survived, married, had children. Years later, after her daughter began writing books about her and the two began speaking at schools, something incredible happened. Students that had learned about the special friendship of the two young shipmates decided to reunite them through Internet research. This lead to the reunion of Gerda and Edith in Seattle.  It became a mission the students would never forget. For more information, log on to

This article was reprinted from the Journal and Topics Newspapers.


A Conversation with Liz Wilhide, author of ‘If I Could Tell You’




IF I COULD TELL YOU is a vivid and captivating novel of love and heartbreak between morally ambiguous characters in the war-torn world of London in 1939 that is decaying around them.  It’s been called “a heartrending story of passion and loss, beautifully crafted with finely drawn characters” (Mary-Rose MacColl, author of In Falling Snow) yet at the same time, “one can almost taste the dust falling through the stairs during bombing raids.” (Booklist)

Elizabeth Wilhide is the author of Ashenden. Born in the United States, she has lived in Britain since 1967. She has two children and lives in south London.

The Interview…

 In the acknowledgements, you write that the character of Dougie was inspired by British wartime filmmaker Humphrey Jennings. How did you discover his story and why did it inspire you?

A friend’s mother, who lived through the war, told me about Jennings many years ago, singling out two of his films in particular: Fires Were Started and Listen to Britain. At the time I was reading Mass-Observation accounts of Blitz – contemporary diaries written by anonymous contributors – and was fascinated by the vivid descriptions of the bombing, particularly where these diverged from popular mythology. While the “Blitz spirit” undoubtedly existed, some of the diarists also recorded feelings of fear, panic, depression, despair and exhaustion, which is hardly surprising. Not everyone behaved well under bombardment – looting, for example, was common. Yet there was immense courage, too, of the everyday, putting one-foot-in-front-of-the-other variety.

 Can you tell your readers a little more about Jennings and his work? In what ways are he and Dougie similar and in what ways do they differ?

Jennings was a hugely significant figure in the early years of British documentary filmmaking. The war, which came along at the right time for him, became his great subject. He was a painter, a Surrealist, and a poet, as well as a film-maker. Dougie shares many of his interests, characteristics and talents. He also shares some of his faults.

When I was writing the novel, a friend put me in touch with John Krish, a noted British documentary film-maker of the 1950s and 1960s, who began his career during the war when he went to work at Denham Studios at the age of 16. His boss was Stuart McAllister, Jennings’ editor, and Krish knew Jennings at the time he was making his best-known films.

John Krish was well over ninety when I interviewed him, and not in good health (sadly, he died earlier this year). But he was incredibly generous with his time and his memories. When I first spoke to him on the phone, he said, with wry amusement in his voice, “So you want to talk about Humphrey, do you?” and hairs rose on the back of my neck. The cold winter morning when I talked to him in his kitchen about a man I knew only from films and biographies was a great gift.

 What was the purpose of films like Jennings’s? Do you believe they were effective? How would today’s viewers respond to that work?

Jennings’ films were propaganda, intended to bolster morale on the home front and to portray a resolute nation under fire to friends abroad. Widely shown in Britain, they were also screened in the United States to help shift public opinion in the days before Pearl Harbor. Yet they were not crude exercises in tub-thumping; there was something much subtler about their explorations of national character. Who are we, and what do we value, they seem to say. Jennings, like others in the documentary film movement, was dedicated to telling the truth, at least as much truth as the wartime authorities would allow. He was also, first and foremost, an artist, who pushed the boundaries of what was technically possible at the time.

 Like this book, your previous novel “Ashenden” was also based on historical events and individuals. What are the challenges in melding fact with fiction? What is the appeal?

When you are writing fiction based on real, well-documented events, I believe you are under an absolute obligation to be as accurate as possible. For me, it’s a question of respect, a duty we owe the past and those who lived through it, as well as to historians who have put in the hard academic graft.

It’s also the case that nothing destroys a reader’s faith in a historical novel faster than a historical howler. Truth matters in any kind of fiction and a disregard of it shows sloppiness at best. I live in dread of making mistakes, which is why I will check and check and check again – even so, I know I am bound to have got something wrong.

 The level of historical detail in the novel is impressive and suggests that you did a lot of research before writing the novel. What was your research and writing process? Did you find any interesting information that didn’t make it into the book?

The Irish novelist Sebastian Barry once made a very interesting observation about research. When he was writing A Long Long Way, a book that is partly set during the 1916 Easter Rising, he said he went to the trouble of finding out what Dublin’s street lamps looked like at that date – not so he could put this detail in his book and impress his readers by his thoroughness, but so he could feel confident about leaving it out. That seems to me to convey a crucial point, which is that the purpose of research is to give you confidence in your decisions. Does this matter? Would it have been unusual at the time? Is it worth noticing? Your aim always has to be show, not tell.

The war is still, just, within living memory. My high school French teacher, Miss Simpkins, used to tell us how she had taken a bus to Victoria station during an air raid to retrieve her umbrella from Lost Property. That went into the book. So did a conversation I had with a cab driver, who had lived in our East End street as a boy and who told me that he had been saved by his wardrobe when the ceiling of his bedroom came down.

 Julia has a deep emotional and intellectual connection with music, and because of this, there are a number of detailed discussions of specific classical pieces. Of the pieces Julia describes, which is your favorite? Do you play any instruments?

I played the piano for a while when I was in my teens – badly, but well enough to gain both enjoyment from it and an understanding of what it would take to be good at it. My daughter, who persevered, is wonderful pianist and I loved listening to her practice on the Bechstein that lived in our hall. Chopin’s “Raindrop Prelude” always reminds me of her. My mother played the piano by ear and with much rolling of chords – especially popular songs from the 1930s and 1940s, such as “Stardust”, which is briefly mentioned in the book. But the piece that really makes me smile and gives me itchy feet is Art Tatum’s irrepressible “Tea for Two”. I can listen to that over and over. It’s so sexy.

 Julia changes dramatically over the course of If I Could Tell You. What do you see as her greatest strength and her greatest flaw?

Her greatest strength is resilience. You don’t necessarily appreciate it at the outset, but it develops, almost like a muscle. The war was a long haul.

I’m tempted to say her greatest flaw is self-deception, which she shares to a greater or lesser degree with most of us – love is blind, after all – but I think failing to rise to the challenge of her talent, selling herself short, is probably worse.

Where would she be if she had never met Dougie? Would she be happy? Would her life be fulfilling?

There is an inevitability about Julia meeting Dougie – he was just waiting to happen. In many ways, he represents the unfinished business she has with herself. When the novel opens she has chosen a safe, protected route in life. While the war would inevitably have changed her, as it changed everyone, I doubt that she would ever have been truly happy if she had not found some means of taking full responsibility for herself – effectively if she had never grown up.

 You did extensive research on the new roles British women took on during the war. Why was it important to you to explore this history? How do you see Julia’s work at the HAA as it relates to her identity and transformation in the novel? 

Julia is what I’d like to call an accidental feminist. Her story asks a question. What would it be like if women were defined not by their relationships but by their work? The war gave women a chance to explore new identities, to be what we recognize as modern.

When women’s war work is portrayed in historical fiction, it’s often of the caring, supportive and nurturing variety: nursing, driving ambulances, volunteering at canteens, making tea. All of which are worthy. But I wanted Julia to experience true agency, to step right away from a traditional role and stand on the front line.

Two things inspired me. One was a photograph of a young female motorbike dispatch rider in the ATS. She looks as pleased as punch. The other was an article in a 1940s magazine a friend sent me, which described how the first draft of women on HAA batteries was initially received. (The powers that be were very concerned that they would need to eat salad.)

Praise for IF I COULD TELL YOU by Elizabeth Wilhide

“Heart-wrenching . . .Wilhide creates a closely detailed, finely shaded portrayal of love and war that is anti-romantic but far from cynical.”—Kirkus Reviews

While comparisons to Anna Karenina could be made, Julia is made of stronger stuff, and eventually, she crafts a useful life and is able to discover some measure of peace. The author’s careful attention to period detail, complemented by clean prose, is a special strength of this book. The effects of wartime ruin are vividly rendered, and one can almost taste the dust falling through the stairs during bombing raids.”—Booklist (Starred Review)

“Readers who enjoy introspective and morally ambiguous tales such as Jojo Moyes’s The Last Letter from Your Lover and Anita Shreve’s The Pilot’s Wife will want to pick up this tale from a promising writer . . . Wilhide delves deep into the human psyche, especially when it comes to loving and losing.”—Library Journal

“Elizabeth Wilhide’s IF I COULD TELL YOU is a marvelous work of historical fiction, beautifully crafted and inhabited by morally complex and fully realized characters. It’s one of best novels I’ve read this year, compelling, immersive, and utterly impossible to put down.” —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Fates and Traitors and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

IF I COULD TELL YOU is a beautifully composed work of historical fiction, its atmospheric lyricism a testimony to the obvious skills of the author, who evokes Britain’s past with honesty and feeling.”—Historical Novels Review

“A heartrending story of passion and loss, beautifully crafted with finely drawn characters and wonderful detail, set against the darkest years of the 20th century, when the world went to war for a second time.”—Mary-Rose MacColl, author of In Falling Snow

“Elizabeth Wilhide writes about universal emotions with great tenderness and imagination.”—Claire Fuller, author of Our Endless Numbered Days

“Unflinching, excellent…Wartime Britain has been rarely so skillfully evoked.”—Daily Mail (London)

“Beautifully observed and written.”—Woman and Home

“An elegant, absorbing tale of hope and resilience.”—Sainsbury’s Magazine

“Heart-wrenching . . . intoxicating.”—The Times (London)

Guest Blog Post: Dating with Pets by Krista Davis




Let’s face it, dating is tough. I know I’m not the queen of bad dates, but I have had my share.

Like the guy who took me to a fast food place, paid with coupons, and stared at my tray like there was something he coveted. My coupon! I have no problem with saving money. But when he told me how he was avoiding payment of his personal property taxes, I was appalled. He took being frugal to an illegal level! Definitely not the guy for me.

A matchmaking event is going on in MISSION IMPAWSIBLE. It’s a little different because people are invited to bring their furry friends with them to help them make matches. Believe it or not, there’s a certain logic to that. How many times have you struck up a conversation with a total stranger because of his or her dog or cat? Animals help break the ice and give us something to talk about.

As I was writing, I began to wonder what attracts us to our mates. It turns out that it’s quite complex. The second we meet someone, all kinds of things start happening in our brains. Not only are we consciously assessing them, but our brains are taking in all kinds of information of which we’re not aware. For instance, we’re smelling them! The scents of potential mates are being processed by our brains.

Animal lovers have additional hurdles to cross. In a survey by, 61% of respondents said they would end a relationship because of a pet. There’s no way I would give up one of my furry friends, so I understand that completely. A guy who didn’t love dogs and cats would be out of contention immediately!

And it gets worse. 45% of people spend more money on their pets than on their partners! We cat and dog people are truly devoted. But that’s not news to us, is it?

So maybe having a matchmaking event with dogs and cats isn’t such a bad idea. Not only can Fluffy and Fido assess potential partners (a few well placed hisses and growls, perhaps?) but their people would know they were meeting others who share their passion for their pets.

MISSION IMPAWSIBLE was in bookstores on February 7.  With a professional matchmaker and meddling mothers, you know there’s bound to be trouble!


New York Times Bestselling author Krista Davis writes the Paws and Claws Mysteries set on fictional Wagtail Mountain, a resort where people vacation with their pets. Her 4th Paws and Claws Mystery is MISSION IMPAWSIBLE. Krista also writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries. Like her characters, Krista has a soft spot for cats, dogs, and sweets. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three dogs and two cats.


Her contacts:






Guest Blog Post: Bad Asses and Boo-Book Kissers: My Idea of Strong Female Character




War and Peach

Feb 07, 2017 | 304 Pages

By Susan Furlong

I’ve been fortunate to have many strong female influences in my life: my grandmothers and aunts, sisters, caring teachers, and above all, my own mother. I’m grateful to these women, both past and present, who have showed me what it means to be a formidable female. And perhaps most importantly, that being strong doesn’t necessarily mean keeping up with my male counterparts, but being wholeheartedly and unapologetically ME. It means I can be a real bad ass when needed and still be compassionate and nurturing. I can be physically and emotionally strong, yet be soft and nurturing and admit when I need help or comfort. I can go to the workplace, or the gym, or wherever, match the intensity and ferocity of any male and still come home to kiss boo-boos and wipe away tears, enjoy ‘girly makeovers’ with my daughters, and lovingly prepare a meal for my husband.

To me, being a strong female means I like what I like, and I am who I am. No apologies.

I strive to create indomitable, dynamic female characters in each book I write. In the Georgia Peach Mysteries, readers are introduced to Nola Mae Harper, a Georgia Belle who epitomizes the strength, courage and undeniable grit of her Southern female ancestors. Having traveled the world as a humanitarian aid worker, she’s faced unimaginable hardships and witnessed firsthand the devastation and poverty endured by many peoples in third world countries and she brings these experiences back home to her Southern roots and her hometown of Cays Mill, Georgia. It’s no wonder that when Nola comes face to face with family misfortunes, community debacles and even murder, she’s able to draw from her inner strength and tackle obstacles with true female strength. Sometimes that means relying on the support of her family and friends and sometimes it means taking out the trash … literally. Whatever the situation calls for, Nola is up for the challenge. She’s sure and capable, confident and compassionate, loving and strong … she’s my type of gal.